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Empowering consumers in threatening market contexts

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Research Group: Applied, Social and Health Psychology Research Group -

Proposed supervisory team: Dr Magdalena Zawisza ()
Dr Daragh McDermott ()

Theme: Consumer Psychology, Gender and Sexualities, Identity and Social Issues, Prejudice and Advertising

Summary of the research project

This PhD project aims to test novel ways of protecting the audiences against the effects of (e.g. media-based) prejudice (be it sexism, racism, homophobia or ageism). As an example, the omnipresent gender-traditional advertising (Zawisza et al., 2016, 2018; Grau & Zotos, 2016) has been shown to exert numerous negative effects on women (e.g. on their self-esteem, leadership and maths performance, Dimofte et al., 2015; Van Loo & Rydell, 2014) including disengagement from gender threatening market contexts (Lee, Kim & Vohs, 2011). Similar effects may apply to other forms of media based prejudice.

The PhD project will test the concept of power as a useful buffering tool. For example, incidental ‘power-posing’ induced by working on small (iPod Touch) vs. bigger (iMac computer) device led to lower vs. higher assertiveness respectively (Bos & Cuddy, 2013) and slumped sitting led to lower work-related self-confidence than sitting straight up (Briñol, Petty, & Wagner, 2009). Could similar power manipulations literally empower consumers to reach their full economic potential in socially threatening market contexts?

The project will examine if and how power can be employed successfully to protect audiences against prejudice in the marketplace. The project will involve running series of quantitative experimental studies ranging from selection of appropriate stimuli through testing various manipulations of power and their usefulness in neutralizing the negative effects of the stereotypical marketplace situations. Moreover, relevant mediators and moderators will also be investigated.

The aim of the project is to produce practical recommendations for consumers, practitioners and advertising standards agencies alike and has consumers’ well-being at heart. It may form part of a bigger project run by Dr Zawisza in collaboration with Dr Simone Schnall, Cambridge University. Equipment and software such as online experimental testing platforms enabling use of Social Media will be available at ARU.

Interested candidates should come with background in social sciences, marketing and/or advertising, experience in running quantitative research projects (i.e. experiments) and conducting advanced statistical analyses. Interest in experimental social psychology is essential and in consumer psychology desirable.

Where you’ll study

Cambridge -


This project is self-funded.

Details of studentships for which funding is available are selected by a competitive process and are advertised on our jobs website as they become available:

Next steps

If you wish to be considered for this project, you will need to apply for our Psychology PhD ( In the section of the application form entitled ’Outline research proposal’, please quote the above title and include a research proposal.

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